The Arouet Starter Kit began with one question in late 2020: “What would have been most helpful to me when I released home?” I had been struggling to come up with how to support participants coming home to a completely changed world.

Due to the pandemic, we had not been able to provide in person programming since the beginning of the year. It was a frustrating time for me, both personally and professionally, as my recovery and my own status as a directly impacted person. I knew how critical it was to know that someone cared enough about me to give me something to help make this easier.

And the answer to that question I asked myself took shape: most people leave prison with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs, giving them the tools for a fresh start could make all the difference.

It led me to more questions, what did I need in those first moments? What could have made all the difference for me? Would I have recidivated if I knew that there were people out there that cared enough about me to give me these tools?

I will never know the answer to that last question. I found out the answer to the other two, with the first starter kit I delivered.

It was dropped off at a halfway house, along with an apology, “I’m sorry this isn’t more.  I know you are literally starting from scratch.”

With tears in her eyes, she looked at me. “This means everything.  It shows me that I’m worthy and someone cares.”

The success I have today, after my third time being released from incarceration, was made possible from a stranger who took a chance on me.  Backpacks are not changing the world, but I can ensure that no one else has to wonder if someone cares. The Arouet Starter Kits with clothes, basic hygiene necessities,  gift cards and bus passes, weren’t what gave me a second chance, but today, they are definitely what allows me to help others get theirs.

#wedorecover

Brandy Smith
Program and Outreach Manager

(Check out this video of over 40 Arouet Starter Kits being assembled, made possible by the generous donations of InsideView: https://youtu.be/XWnV0un94p8 )